Medical assistants in medical scrubs and uniforms help perform routine clinical and administrative tasks in order to keep offices of physicians, surgeons, podiatrists, and other health professionals running smoothly. Medical assistant is not the same thing as physician assistant: P.A.’s are trained to examine, diagnose, and to treat patients under a physician’s supervision. Their duties vary from one office to another, depending upon the size and location of the practice, and the practitioner’s specialty.
In a small practice, a medical assistant is usually a generalist who is responsible for both administrative and clinical duties and reports to a physician, office manager, or other health practitioner. Medical assistants in large practices usually specialize in one or more particular areas, and work beneath the supervision of department administrators. The many administrative duties performed include answering the telephone, greeting the patients, filing and updating patients’ medical records, filling handling correspondence, filling out insurance forms, scheduling appointments, handling bookkeeping and billing, and arranging for laboratory services and hospital admission. The clinical duties vary from state to state, and include taking patients’ medical histories, recording their vital signs, explaining the treatment procedure to the patients, preparing them for examination, and helping the physician conduct the examination. Medical assistants in Dickies scrubs are charged with collecting and preparing laboratory specimens and performing basic laboratory tests, sterilizing medical instruments and disposing of contaminated supplies. They give patients instruction about medications or special diets, they prepare and administer the medications under the physician’s direction and they authorize drug refills when directed and telephone the prescriptions to pharmacies. They also draw patients’ blood, take electrocardiograms, prepare patients for x-rays, change dressings, and remove sutures. Often they arrange the examining room equipment and instruments, purchase and maintain equipment and supplies and keep the waiting and examination rooms clean and neat.
Medical assistants who choose specialties have additional duties. Opthalmic medical assistants provide eye care under the direction of opthalmologists by conducting diagnostic tests, measuring and recording the vision, and testing eye muscle function. They show patients how to insert, to remove, and to care for contact lenses. They apply eye dressings and administer eye medications under a physician’s direction. They also maintain the optical and surgical instruments, and they assist the ophthalmologist during surgery. Podriatric medical assistants help podiatrists during surgery, make foot castings, and expose and develop x-rays. They work in clean, well-lighted environments and they must interact constantly with other people and be able to handle numerous responsibilities at once. The majority of full-time ones work regular, forty hour weeks. Some work only part time, nighttime, or weekends. Although some assistants in medical shoes receive their training on-the-job, most complete one- or two-year programs in vocational / technical high schools, in post-secondary vocational schools, and in junior and community colleges. Medical assisting is projected to be the fastest-growing occupation over the decade 2002 to 2012, with the job prospects being brightest for those who have certification, or formal training and experience.